Sean Smith began college as a pre-med student, thinking one day he would become a doctor.
But his patients have ended up being made of steel, brick and wood.
In September, Smith became the newest franchisee of Glass Doctor, which provides auto, residential and business glass repair, installation and home improvements.
At his shop in Tyler, "Intensive Care Unit" is posted on the wall, along with an "operating room schedule" for cars windows being repaired. In the lobby, "in surgery" and "in recovery" signs show which cars are being tended to.
Glass installers typically wear scrubs, and they treat every case as they would a patient.
"We fix your panes" is the slogan of Glass Doctor and it has a duel meaning. Smith said it is important to make sure the customer is completely satisfied and taken care of, and they are skilled at fixing glass panes.
MR. FIX IT
Smith, 36, grew up in East Texas, attending Chapel Hill schools, Tyler Junior College and The University of Texas at Tyler before finishing college at East Texas Baptist University. On mission trips he saw the world, visiting Central America, Europe and Canada.
In college he started studying pre-med but switched to engineering. He designed sound systems and lighting in East Texas for about 10 years before deciding he wanted to own a business. "I wanted to be responsible for my own success," he said.
When he was a kid, Smith took his old toys and changed them into better toys. Before he could drive a car, his dad would turn him loose to fix what was wrong with a vehicle. "I've always been fairly handy," he said.
Bob and Doris Scoville opened Windshield Medic in Tyler about 10 years ago. They started by repairing small cracks in car windshields and grew the business to a full-service auto glass shop. Three years ago, the couple was looking to retire.
"I was in the right place at the right time," Smith said. "I'd been praying about changing careers and had always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I enjoy working on cars and working with people so this is a good fit for me."
Smith bought the business from the Scovilles. Glass technicians Kelly Schwitzer, Danilo Gonzalez and Robert Vestal came along with it and showed Smith the ropes of glass installation and repair. He has since added two additional employees.
After he bought Windshield Medic, Smith was looking for a way to improve and grow the business when he was approached by Mark Liston, president of Glass Doctor, he said, adding that the franchise closely fit his way of doing business.
Smith went through training with Glass Doctor last spring and officially converted his business from Windshield Medic to Glass Doctor in September, although his store signs have not yet been changed. Once he gets the new signage and a van decked out for Glass Doctor, Smith said he plans to have a grand opening in about a month.
Becoming Glass Doctor meant adding residential and commercial glass replacement services with his auto repair business. Smith now offers shower doors, mirrors, table tops and decorative glass doors -- not just windows.
Repairing a minor chip in a windshield takes about 20 or 30 minutes, while replacing a windshield typically takes two to three hours. A single-pane glass window on a home can be cut, fit and installed in an hour or less, Smith said.
He said they use Original Equipment Manufacturer glass on vehicles. The higher-grade glass comes from the same manufactures automakers use, he added.
"I was very impressed with their code of values, the way they conduct business and the fact that they're headquartered in Waco," he said of Glass Doctor.
Smith consulted with about a dozen franchisees before deciding on joining the business, he said.
Liston has been in the franchising business for 32 years and with Glass Doctor for more than two years. He said he was vice president of operations until he was promoted to president in December.
Liston came to Tyler about a year ago and interviewed several people in the glass business to open a Glass Doctor franchise here. He said he knew Smith was the right person to join the franchise.
Established in 1962 in Seattle, Glass Doctor is now a subsidiary of The Dwyer Group Inc., a Waco-based holding company of seven, service-based franchise organizations, including Mr. Rooter and AireServ.
Liston said Glass Doctor was bought by The Dwyer Group in 1998. There are 185 Glass Doctor franchisees and more than 300 locations nationwide and Canada. He said there are 15 Glass Doctor franchises in Texas and the company plans to add about 10 more in the state, creating about 250 jobs, in the next three years.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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